EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Eli Manning will go down as the greatest quarterback in Giants history, an icon of the franchise, and a symbol of their most recent championship era. It is a lock, obviously, that he will one day be placed in the Giants Ring of Honor.
But it is far from a lock that he will end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He may have a Hall of Fame-caliber resume: two championship rings and gaudy career statistics that rank him in the NFL's Top 10 of all-time. But he is not viewed universally as a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Among the 48 voters who will eventually decide his fate, there is considerable doubt that could even derail his candidacy completely.
That's the unfortunate truth about the career of the 38-year-old Manning. He's a Giants legend, but many -- especially outside of New York -- do not view him as one of the greatest players of all time.
In fact, among the men and women who chose the Hall of Famers, he's not often considered among the best at his position in his generation. He has been hurt by a comparison to his contemporaries, the Giants' lack of winning in the last eight seasons, and a feeling that his abilities and production have dropped off in recent years.
Based on conversations over the last year with more than half of the Hall of Fame selection committee, the best way to describe their feelings on Manning and his candidacy is this: Lukewarm. There is a great respect for his abilities and maybe even some awe about how he helped engineer two remarkable Super Bowl championships. But that's not necessarily enough to convince them he deserves a Hall of Fame bust.
It used to be a given that two Super Bowl rings was enough to get any quarterback into the Hall, since Jim Plunkett is the only one to win two and not get into Canton. Manning, though, is well-positioned to be the second. And even if he does get in, it's not going to be immediate. It's going to take some time.
This is what Bob Glauber, Newsday's NFL columnist, president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and a Hall of Fame voter told SNY a year ago for a story on Manning's Hall of Fame chances.
"I do think he will get in the Hall of Fame. I don't know that it will be a first-ballot situation," Glauber said. "I think there'll be questions about just the statistical compilation. It doesn't jump out at you as 'Oh, this guy is a John Elway or Dan Marino or Peyton Manning.' He just doesn't have those numbers. He hasn't had those incredible regular seasons that a lot of these Hall of Famers had.
"And I think some people will look at him as those Super Bowls were somewhat of an aberration. That's why with Eli there'll be some debate and there'll be a lot of discussion about it, and I can see where it would take him a couple of years to get in."
Asked on Wednesday, Glauber said his take is still the same, only he added: "All things considered, he does have Hall of Fame qualifications and deserves to be in."
Deserving it is one thing. Getting in is another. An NJ.com poll taken Wednesday indicated it's not likely to happen. Of the 30 voters who responded, nine said they were undecided on Manning. Ten said Manning would not have their vote.
And 10 voters in a room of 48 is a killer. Assuming Manning gets to the list of 15 finalists, which does seem like a lock, he'd have to survive the cut to the final seven, which won't be easy since there are always a glut of Hall-worthy candidates who are waiting to get in. Even Michael Strahan, a lock in the eyes of most, had to wait a year.
Then, once Manning gets to the final seven, his candidacy is subject to yes or no vote where he needs 80 percent of the voters to approve him in order to be enshrined. That means he needs 39 votes of the 48.
If 10 voters really won't vote for him, he can't get more than 38. And that's the end of his Hall chances, until there is turnover on the selection committee or someone changes their mind.
Of course, there's time for that. He's not eligible until five years after he retires, whenever that is. But time isn't necessarily on his side either. The longer he waits, the more Hall of Fame candidates there will be on the ballot with him. And he already isn't often measured favorably with the quarterbacks of his generation -- a star-studded group that includes, among others, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. And there's another generation of star quarterbacks coming right behind them.
That's why he could have used a strong finish to what now is a 116-116 career. Over the last six seasons, Manning is only 38-59 as a starter. He's not responsible for that .391 winning percentage. He's not the one who mismanaged the roster, put him behind a terrible offensive line for years, traded away his best receiver, and saddled him with awful defenses.
But it still doesn't reflect well on him. Neither does his six playoff appearances in 15 seasons, or the fact that those two Super Bowl seasons were the only times he won a playoff game. As unfair as it is, some still consider those championships a fluke, or believe the defense carried Manning along for the championship ride.
And now, unfortunately, it looks like Manning is out of time to make his case -- unless the Giants reverse course this season and give him another shot, or he decides to continue his career somewhere else in 2020. For now, though, it doesn't look like he got his happy ending, and that is going to resonate in skeptical voters minds.
Maybe Manning will get into Canton someday. There is a strong argument to be made that he deserves it. But the fact is, with the voters on the committee now, it's not going to be easy and it's unlikely to happen on the first ballot.
If Manning is going to join his brother someday in Canton, it is most likely going to take a while.